On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to section five of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain regions – mainly in the south – to get permission from the Justice Department before making any change to their electoral map.
The law’s requirement is meant to address the region’s history of discrimination. The plaintiff in the case, Shelby County, Alabama, is arguing that the circumstances that required the 1965 act no longer exist and the state ought to be able to adjust its map without getting “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department first. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP argue, no, Alabama is still too racist to allow them to do that.
During a conference call set up by the ACLU, I asked Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, if there was ever going to be a time in the future when section five should be lifted or if it would have to exist forever. He responded:
I do not see section any time in the near future being taken out as a whole because we just have too many — the NAACP has here in Alabama, we just get too many calls during election time of people whose rights, they are you know, being disenfranchised. And, and we continue to see that in each election.
The VRA must be re-authorized every 25 years. The next time it will come up in Congress is 2031.